High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers to visit Central Africa
GENEVA - UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers on Sunday begins a seven-day mission to Central Africa and the Great Lakes Region, where he will focus on some the continent's most protracted refugee situations.
During his four-nation visit, Lubbers will urge support for current peace initiatives in the region and for creation of the conditions necessary for the protection and return of refugees.
"I want to remind the international community that we need to continue supporting the fragile peace efforts in Africa," Lubbers said. "At a time when the world's attention is focused on Afghanistan, efforts to create safe conditions for the return of millions of refugees and displaced people in Africa should not be neglected."
Lubbers is scheduled to arrive Sunday morning in the Central African Republic (CAR) for the first leg of his tour, which will also take him to the Republic of Congo (RoC), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. He is scheduled to meet senior government officials in all four countries, as well as representatives of the two rebel factions in the DRC.
In each of the countries, the High Commissioner will travel to refugee sites. He will meet Congolese (DRC) refugees at the Molangué site in CAR, in Loukolela, RoC, and Rwanda. In the DRC, he will visit Angolan refugees at the Kilueka refugee settlement and Central African refugees who arrived in Zongo, in the north of the country, following last year's coup attempt in Bangui, CAR.
Lubbers' mission coincides with a meeting of the "Inter-Congolese Dialogue" in Sun City, South Africa - a regional effort to bring peace to the DRC.
There are currently an estimated 13.1 million uprooted people throughout Africa. In the Great Lakes region alone, UNHCR cares for 760,000 refugees. Tanzania has Africa's largest refugee population - nearly 1 million. Half of them are in UNHCR's care. DRC hosts 270,000 refugees from neighbouring nations, while 330,000 refugees from DRC itself are scattered in the region.